11/19/2007

A highly scientific discussion about breasts

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To mitigate the massive flood of viewers pounding on that 'read more' button, though, let me stress that today's post is, as always, completely and almost depressingly work-safe and wall-of-text-y.

Fanservice is one of those issues in anime that is nearly completely polarizing; the middle ground is very barren, with most people lying in the "I'd hit it" or the "Get it away from me" camps.

Perhaps because the issue is shoved down our throats so much that it's one of those things that's impossible to ignore, especially with sexuality being at the forefront of endless American discussions.

The training of most people to be averse to anything resembling human flesh leads to much beating of dead horses, at times, with 'concerned parents' and nameless grey-haired lawyers jumping on half-a-second long flashes of nudity on TV and poorly rendered sexual acts hidden away on some game disc. But on the internet, with the ability to be anonymous, the split between the two groups, in favor and opposition of fanservice, is quite more evenly split.

At this point it would be easy to take one position as a high ground and condemn such blatant fanservice as mind-warping and demeaning to women and generally fire and brimstone stuff. And as much of that belief that I share, it's still in a sense wrong to lock out and stereotype completely those who perhaps are a bit looser in belief and a bit more enjoying of the female form.

Certainly there could be arguments formed for fanservice, valid ones. Not everyone who enjoys a bit of fanservice is a lifeless nerd hidden in a basement somewhere. For some it could be another form a physical comedy; something simple, easily digestible, and relaxing. Or the counterargument by being so uptight about the matter, naysayers of fanservice or sexuality in general are making the matter worse. Even that focusing on one kind of fanservice is unfair; while 'boing boing' fanservice is the most common type, remember the definition of the word fanservice: there could be straight moe fanservice, in-joke fanservice, technological (mecha / car) fanservice, and so on.

Still, it's likely clear by now that I plan to argue the 'clean' side in saying 'keep the fanservice down, please', and I hope to prove some valid points instead of just coming across as an uptight skin-fearing person.

One thing that's the most grating to me about fanservice as it is today is, as it was mentioned above, the 'in-your-face' aspects of it. When an anime decides to add some boing boing to the mix, it's never in a subtle manner. Maybe if we didn't always have to do a full body pan in slow motion, maybe if we didn't have those 'comical sound effects', maybe if we didn't use a low angle shot whenever someone falls down, fanservice would be more tolerable.

But the way fanservice conducts itself is pretty much the antithesis of subtle; it's an elephant that trumpets itself whenever it's in the room. It's essentially equivalent to why some malign Key shows as having "cry now" moments, except here instead of crying you're supposed to get horny, or whatever.

This same aspect begins to kill the believability of the show a bit as well. Now anime has never been a realistic kind of fiction, but I enjoy a show that I can connect to much more than something random. And usually along with fanservice comes blatant breaches of belief; the breaking of the law of gravity (or inertia, or momentum), or the twenty ways to get in a compromising position, which usually snowballs to ridiculous female personalities (in that fanservice characteristic and sane characters are mutually exclusive) and implausible setups.

Perhaps a lot of this is due to the traits that most shows that have fanservice share rather than the actual shots themself. But it boils down to the point that, like the debate, fanservice shows are all or nothing; either they go out and grab fans straight by the crotch, or they turn up their nose at the matter.

Even Shuffle!, a show I've lauded for being something overly fanservicey yet decidedly watchable, was very distinct in saying "OK, this part is plot, and this part is panties. Deal." (The Kaede arc almost blurred the distinction, to be fair.)

To continue the argument chain reaction, this may be such because, as mentioned, the two crowds of fanservice fans and foes aren't on very good terms, and going in half-hearted into the fanservice deal would greatly damage an anime. The whole "You got fanservice in my story; you got story in my fanservice" deal, and all.

But, to make a big grand conclusion of all it, isn't fanservice half-hearted as a whole? To speak logically, it's really one giant tease; nudity, but not quite, intercourse, but not really. Anything that's likely to get aired on television - that is, probably less than R-15 - isn't going to be incredibly risque, the kind of things that fanservice appreciators would enjoy. Fanservice is the short-term, baser equivalent of Code-E every anime you've ever liked that got cut off abruptly at the end with no conclusion.

There may be an argument for 'not going all the way' that's valid, but I don't see it; the fact is that with fanservice getting the focus that it does in anime, it seems almost silly for it to be toned down; it won't stop the people who are against it from complaining, at any rate.

I personally think fanservice would work best as a background element, or at least with less full-screen-flashes and sound effects. Something that would make it more natural is what I'm aiming for; perhaps a delivery similar to the Lucky Star brand parody type of fanservice, something subtle where you don't have to get it or really accept it for the show to move on. Maybe then everyone can live in happy unison.

-CCY
(Kurukuru!)

3 comments:

I'd like to think that only 12 year olds never exposed to porn get horny from fanservice (I probably did at that age, but that's another story), and that fanservice is more of like an obligation that animation studios perceive to exist in that "we won't sell DVDs", so on and so forth.

A great recent example was Gurren Lagann's Yoko, who's the epitome of walking fanservice. The first episode has her in positions that would have been really, and by really I need to emphasise REALLY REALLY distracting had it not been for the epic action going on in which she made her appearance. Even Kamina points this out in something akin to self-satire; he says "whoa, nice body" aloud before being told by Yoko to stfu and concentrate on the monster.

Even when Simon reaches the obligatory "whoops I landed on your breasts" part it isn't at all distracting, because of how it's pulled off: her expression turns from relief to something akin to anger, only a second later we're notified that it's fear because two more monsters just appeared from behind the camera's POV.

Owen: I think you hit on the head the point that I was dancing around and didn't quite mention: fanservice is generally good as long as it contributes to the anime in some way.

i.e. If it can be legitimately funny, or can add to the plot in some way then fanservice isn't too bad. But breasts for the sake of having breasts is just sort of useless.

Speaking from a cynical internet perspective, there are plenty of other ways for people who enjoy that to get their fix.

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